Once at a high school reunion I caught up with an old classmate who had been an undersized but ferocious athlete (his bigger little brother had been John Elway’s successor as Stanford’s quarterback), and became a motorcycle cop. He had just gotten back from a dream vacation in New York during which he’d seen nine Broadway musicals.
In case you are wondering, he is the doting father of three daughters. Cop, wife, and three girls times nine equals 45 tickets. Of the nine most expensive musicals on Broadway in mid-December 2013, the fifth (and thus median) was long-running Wicked
at an average price of $149
. So, that’s six or seven thousand bucks for a family of five to attend nine shows.
By the way, Wicked
has taken in $793,000,000
on Broadway alone from 2003-2013, higher than the domestic totals of even either of James Cameron’s last two movies. That’s a lot of money. And that’s not the most, either. The Lion King
has now surpassed one billion dollars just playing at one theater on Broadway.
As you would expect, various parties have staked their claims to a slice of the pie. After all, you can’t outsource Broadway, and it’s resistant to insourcing.
Here’s a good article
on Local 1, the stage hands union in New York that works Broadway and other top tier live events in Manhattan. Their work rules guarantee that they’ll put in huge amounts of overtime, for which they are lavishly compensated. A few at the Met opera get over half a million per year in wages and benefits. (The NYT
doesn’t have access to compensation stats for profit Broadway theaters, but presumably they pay in the same ballpark.)
Not surprisingly, the demographics of stage hands are similar to those of film crews in Hollywood, only more so:
Jobs are often passed from father to son, and some members are now the fifth generation of their families to hold Local 1 cards. [Union boss] Mr. Claffey, whose total compensation in 2011 as Local 1’s chief was $277,000, is one of six Claffey brothers in the union.
(It is most definitely a band of brothers. The union is still overwhelmingly white and male. Two years ago, it convened a meeting of its Sisters Committee for the first time, drawing 28 women, which the union’s newsletter said was nearly 20 percent of all the women in the local, suggesting that there are around 140 [out of 2,600].)
That’s Econ 101, as rendered in Business Strategy 101: find yourself a defensible piece of monopoly power, and defend it.